A natural phenomenon in girls , known as menstruation, is often regarded with many myths and taboos. These taboos and myths exclude women from various social-cultural activities. These myths impact girls and women mentaly, emotionally and most importantly on their physical health.
Menstruation is a natural cycle that occurs every month. In that phase women have immense body pain, mood swings but one thing that she also has to deal with are those taboos and myths that society has forced on her. These myths are not divided into rural and urban or educated and uneducated women. Every woman in our society has to face these. There may be a slight difference between myths related to urban and rural girls , but they do not stay away from the highly educated part of India too.
A country where we have states in which we celebrate womanhood when she starts her menstruation cycle (Odisha,Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) also have states that are not able to talk freely about this topic.
1. Entering the Puja room as well as Sacred Places .
During periods girls and women are not allowed to enter in puja rooms as well as every sacred place. They are also not allowed to touch the “Holy Books”. They are believed to be impure and if they touch any of the gods they will impure them too. They are even restricted from offering prayers.
2. Not entering the kitchen
This myth is often related to women and girls of rural areas. They are restricted from entering the kitchen and making the food. The underlying basis of this myth is related to the cultural belief of impurity. It is believed that menstruating women are unhygienic and unclean and hence the food prepared by them will be easily contaminated. Some people also believe that by not letting them enter the kitchen, they are telling them to rest and enjoy their own time.
3. Dietary Restriction
During periods, women have to follow some strict dietary restrictions such as sour foods like curd,tamarind and pickles should be avoided by menstruating women. As it is believed that eating sour food will stop the flow of the menstruation cycle. These are the beliefs of the society and are not scientifically proven.
4. No Exercise during periods
As far as exercise is concerned, research shows that many girls and women believe that doing physical activity during their periods will increase the pain and cramps. While in real life physical activity and exercise help women to relieve premenstrual syndrome and bloating. Exercise also helps in releasing endorphins and serotonin, making one feel relieved from pain and feeling happy respectively
5. Restricted from taking bath
In some parts of India, Menstruating women are restricted from taking baths as well as washing their heads. These situations have different reasons and beliefs.They are restricted from taking bath because they believe that they use water to bathe the deities and it will impure the water if the menstruating women bathe with it. While with the restriction on washing their heads, the myth says that it will stop their periods the very day they wash their heads.
6. Not touch or go near the plants
Girls on their menstruation are often restrained from going near the plants. The older generation used to believe that if girls on their periods go near the plants, the plants would die or weathered down. Many people still believe this myth while some think that it is absolutely absurd.
7. Sleep in separate bed or shed during period
In some parts of India, especially rural areas, menstruating women are often forced to sleep in separate beds or even in different sheds outside the house.They believe that periods are contagious and can harm people. While some also believe that menstruating women should not go near any men living in the house.
Impact of these myths on women and girls
Such taboo present in many parts of the society impacts women on their mental health , emotional health and most importantly physical health.Large number of girls in rural areas as well as less developed areas dropout of schools when they begin menstruating. This also includes many female teachers of those schools too. The schools have gender unfriendly infrastructure and inadequate menstrual facilities for female faculty as well as students. No clean water and proper sanitization undermine the privacy of girl students and female teachers. In a survey, it was found out that in Delhi, women have only 143 private toilets in comparison to 1543 men private toilets
Poor protection and inadequate water facilities often result in risky infections leading to various diseases. Many practices during period have a direct effect on reproductive health. For instance, not taking a bath or washing their head can lead to the compromise in the hygiene of girls.
In a large population of women, the myths related to menstruation are still prevailing. According to these myths it is believed that menstruating women should not bathe, cook or serve food for others, do religious rituals or touch anybody because her blood is impure. This derogatory attitude towards menstruating women also results in negligence in treatment of some diseases. The menstruation cycle continues to be shrouded in mystery and this has resulted in taboos in various parts of the country. This cultural barrier has to be removed to understand women and it can be only done by raising awareness and educating both women and men.